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"Li'l Red Riding Hood"

Cover artwork from the album Li'l Red Riding Hood
Single by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
from the album Li'l Red Riding Hood
Released 1966 (1966)
Genre Garage Rock
Length 02:35
Label MGM
Writer(s) Ron Blackwell
Certification Gold[1]

"Li'l Red Riding Hood" (aka "Little Red Riding Hood") was a 1966 song by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. It was the group's second top-10 hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1966.[2] It was certified gold by the RIAA on August 11, 1966.[1]

It also featured in the films Striking Distance with Bruce Willis in 1993,[3] and Wild Country in 2005.[4]

Contents

Premise

The song is built around the Grimm Brothers' "Little Red Riding Hood" folk tale, adapted by ending before the grandmother makes her entrance, and explicitly using the ambiguity of modern English between "wolf", the carnivore, and "wolf", a man with concealed sexual intentions. The singer remarks on "what big eyes" and "what full lips" Red has, and eventually on "what a big heart" he himself has. An added element is that he says (presumably aside, to the song's audience) that he is disguised in a "sheep suit" until he can demonstrate his good intentions, but he seems to be having a hard time suppressing his wolf call in favor of the baa-ing of a sheep. One of its signature lines is "you're ev'rything that a big bad wolf could want".

Attribution

The song whose lyrics are described just above is widely attributed to Ronald Blackwell.[5] There seems to be no controversy (although various titles are occasionally used) that one with a similar title was earlier written and recorded by the Big Bopper, and released as "Little Red Riding Hood" (N.b: with "little" spelled out) late in 1958 as the B-side of his second hit.[6] The searchable sites with its complete lyrics as text seem to constitute no more than a handful[7], but a recording, purported to be of his voice[8] and thus presumably as being authoritative as to lyrics, exists online.

Though related in concept to the later Blackwell song, these differ in

  1. conflating into one the wolves of Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs (and implying he is on good terms with the pigs)
  2. having the singer call himself both the Big Bopper and the Big Bad Wolf
  3. encountering Red from outside her locked door, where he knocks seeking entrance
  4. being apparently franker, in saying "you're the swingin'est and that's no lie", and insisting on being let in promptly lest the rest of the household return first
  5. foregoing mentioning any fairy-tale-wolfish characteristics or behavior except a Three-Pigs-wolfish threat to blow the house down (unless one regards cackling laughter as counting).

However, at least one site, which ignores the Bopper-recorded lyrics in listing his work, attributes the Blackwell/Pharoahs lyrics to the Big Bopper.

Cover versions

Subsequent recordings of the Blackwell composition include a version by punk rock band Bowling for Soup on their 2005 album Bowling for Soup Goes to the Movies. The Smashing Pumpkins also released a cover of the song in their Live Smashing Pumpkins album series. ApologetiX parodied this in their 2004 album, "Adam Up". Their version is called, "Little-Read Bible Book".

References

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